British Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Slash Funding to Palestinian Schools That Promote Hate
A bill to prohibit British aid money from funding Palestinian schools that promote violent and discriminatory themes was introduced in parliament on Tuesday.
Put forward by MP Louise Ellman, vice chair of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), the measure aims to prohibit international development assistance from reaching Palestinian Authority (PA) schools “that do not promote values endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” otherwise known as UNESCO.
It would also require the government to annually report on how such development assistance supported the promotion of those values.
The PA “is acting as a transmission belt” for hatred and prejudice, Ellman told colleagues in the House of Commons, including by naming “schools, summer camps and sports tournaments after terrorist murderers and Nazi collaborators.”
“At least 20 PA schools in the West Bank and Gaza are named after terrorists, and three after Nazi collaborators,” the lawmaker said.
These include Salah Khalaf, the head of the Black September terrorist group that massacred 11 Israeli Olympic team members in Munich in 1972; Nash’at Abu Jabara, who assembled suicide belts used in a number of Hamas terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians; and Amin al-Husseini, a Nazi collaborator who served as the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate era, and who “was responsible for an SS division and fought against the release of 5,000 Jewish children who perished in the gas chambers,” Ellman observed.
Children are also subject “to a barrage of vicious antisemitic propaganda” outside the classroom, she warned, pointing to programs on PA TV that “feature children reciting poems calling Jews ‘barbaric monkeys,’ ‘the sons of pigs,’ and the ‘most evil among creations.'”
She cited research carried out by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), which in September published a critical report on new grade 1–12 textbooks used by the PA.
“This curriculum drips with vile antisemitic tropes — that Jews sexually harass Muslim women and that they attempted to kill the Prophet Mohammed,” Ellman said. “There is no suggestion that peace with Israel is desirable or possible. References to peace agreements, summits and proposals previously present in school books have been expunged. In their place are lies about the al-Aqsa Mosque being under threat and calls to ‘eliminate the usurper’ — to conquer Haifa and Jaffa.”
She accused the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) of being dismissive of concerns first raised 18 months ago about the curriculum. An independent review of the textbooks was announced in July by DFID minister Alistair Burt, following LFI pressure and local media reports based on IMPACT-se’s findings.
In mid-December, the DFID said it remains committed to completing the review by September, but asserted that “no UK taxpayers’ money to the Palestinian Authority goes to schools or to fund education materials that incite violence.”
Months earlier, Burt said that the PA “has taken action to help address concerns raised,” including by piloting new textbooks — yet “IMPACT-se research shows that there have been no major changes in the current school year,” Ellman noted on Tuesday. “Indeed, the PA has deceived international donors for nearly 20 years with the suggestion that controversial schoolbooks are simply being ‘piloted.'”
The bill — which has support from a number of lawmakers, including LFI chair Joan Ryan and her Conservative Party counterpart Stephen Crabb — was called “a regressive step” by Hugo Swire, who heads the Conservative Middle East Council.
He called on lawmakers to wait until the government completed its review of the Palestinian curriculum before considering “whether there is any need to legislate on this difficult matter.”
“In 2013, a team of American, Israeli, Palestinian and international education experts carried out a study funded by the US State Department, finding that dehumanizing or demonizing is rare in both Palestinian and Israeli textbooks,” Swire said, before focusing on the financial difficulties faced by the PA and the UN body for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, due in part to a US funding withdrawal.
A withdrawal in UK funding could leave room for other donors to step in, like Qatar — “and we all know what the inevitable results of that could be,” he warned.
The next stage for the bill, a second reading, will take place on March 8.